From a blog post that's been waiting to be posted for months...
On my last week, I took a walk around the Altstadt in Düsseldorf. It always made me laugh when people said Germany wasn't old enough, as compared to France or some other places, but to me, it looks old, and certainly a lot older than half of the US.
Ice cream delivered to me by my colleagues on my last day. The ice cream trip wasn't for me, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and benefitted.
A hike on my last day. It was described to me as a "short hike" at only four hours, as opposed to a long hike at eight hours. Not only does this not look like the hiking I'm used to, but a four hour walk in the woods sounded like a lot when they told me about it. The day of, however, it went a lot faster than I thought it would.
Two hours into it, they warned me about ticks, telling me that when I got home, I'd have to do a thorough check of myself to make sure no ticks got into my clothes and bit me.
I may or may not have spent the rest of the day worried that a tick bit me, and I wouldn't start showing signs until I was onboard the 12-hour flight the next day back to the US. I can happily say now that I survived.
It'd rained and the woods were a little muddy, but the air was cool and we saw no one else. I'm not sure there was a more German way to end my last day in Germany.
It was the last time I'd see scenes like this in a while.
Found this guy in the mud, and Frank picked him up to say hi to everyone.
We passed this stone, and someone said "oh, a border stone" (in German), and because it translates exactly the same, I had to ask myself a few times, "what's a border stone?"
Turns out it's exactly what you think it is. We crossed the border right into Holland, and this was the marking. A border stone.
We brought snacks, and Johann was pleased with that.
Nature. Not sure how the shopping cart got all the way out here, as we were nowhere near civilization, but it was a little oxymoronic.
I have a picture of me when I was about seven, standing underneath a circle cactus. Now I have one under a circle ivy. Not sure how it got there, but it made for a great picture.
Martin, Johann and Judith were the greatest. Their inclusion of me in everything that entire summer was literally the icing on the cake.
Frank was such a sport, and happy to include me, always educate me and fill me in on whatever. He was great, and the best boss I could have asked for.
The next day, it was my last day. It was freezing and rained, which seemed to match my general feeling about the day. I cried, so that was accurate.
Johann made it to the airport for my goodbye, despite a looming lunchtime and a nap routine that couldn't be broken. That kid and his smiles.
Wasn't hard to get him to smile, and we stood there pointing out different things in the airport, laughing the entire time. The skytrain was his personal favorite. Mine was the giant families with enormous suitcases wrapped in saran wrap.
I'd cried already that day, that morning when I gave them a card, thanking them for everything they'd done and basically telling them that they were some of the coolest, most generous and patient people I'd ever met. They waited with me while I checked in, walked me to security, and didn't let go of my hugs when they lasted way too long because of my tears.
Judith explained to Johann that I had to go through security, so it was time to say goodbye, and in his little innocent voice, he asked "...mit?" ("with?"). The last few weeks I was there, he was very intent on going everywhere with me. She told him that no, he couldn't go with me, and while I was recovering from my own tears, started crying. That didn't help much with my own, and I started crying all over again.
I went through security, and as I was loading my things onto the conveyor belt, the security worker saw my tears and asked me (in German) if everything was okay. I nodded, told him it was a sad day, and kept doing my thing. He then said something in English, and when I responded to the English question too, he was shocked, and said "oh, you speak English!"
Though all I wanted to do was cry, his mistaking me for a German, and believing it even after I spoke to him, was the perfect send-off.